Fresh on the open market, I was looking for a quick fling to replace the hole in my heart that Merlo left. I found my rebound with a sexy little place called Custom House. Custom House is located at 500 S. Dearborn and its website is http://www.customhouse.cc/. Custom House is Chef Shawn McClain's meat-focused restaurant in his Chicago restaurant empire (Spring (fish), Green Zebra (vegetarian)). We did find out that Chef McClain is giving up the reins of Custom House to focus on a new restaurant he is opening in Vegas. Nevertheless, tonight, as always was a tremendous effort by this great restaurant.
Upon arriving in the lobby of the restaurant, we were quickly whisked away to our table in the middle of the dimly lit, modern dining room. A friendly waiter named Eric brought us our menus and the wine list and explained the special of the evening (pork chop, sunchoke puree, pork reduction).
The prosciutto came out served with sliced radishes, shallots, and basil. The buffalo mozzarella was melted over a piece of bread. The prosciutto was wonderfully salty as it should be, but I was a bit confused by the bread underneat the melted cheese. I feel like they could have done better just wrapping some lightly warmed balls of cheese with the prosciutto, but maybe I was just reminiscing about the wonderful ex-Merlo dish. Beyond my minor quibble with the bread, I thought this was a nicely executed, simple appetizer.
These dishes were extremely filling, so we opted to share one dessert. There are some extremely strange-sounding, but probably wonderful desserts on the menu. Chief among these was the foie gras pot de creme with pickled grapes. I've had a foie gras creme brulee before, but that was served as a side dish to another savory course. I couldn't comprehend how this could be a dessert. I was not about to head down this alley since we were only getting one dessert, but the waiter assured me that it does work well as a dessert. Rather, we settled on "Smores." This dessert consisted of a graham cracker tuile filled with chocolate custard. On the side was melted marshmallow and a pile of bacon powder. Did you really think I could go a whole meal without eating some bacon? The custard was extremely chocolatey and dense. The bitterness from the chocolate was offset by the subtle flavor of the graham cracker tuile. The crisp tuile also contrasted the texture of the custard. While it would seem that simply adding marshmallows would complete the smore concept, Custom House took it a step farther. The bacon powder was not there just for the sake of adding bacon (although I would have been fine with that), rather it was necessary to add a smoky element that smores get from the campfire. Even more elementary, it added a contrast of saltiness to the intense sweetness of every other element. For any of you have eaten Doritos and bananas or cookies and pretzels together, you know how powerful the sweet-salty connection is.
Custom House was an excellent meal and made for an awesome escape from my article. Even more importantly, it may have replaced my ex, Merlo on Lincoln. Perhaps if she changes back to her old ways we can reconcile, but that does not look promising right now. Give Custom House a shot and let me know what you think!